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7. Israel, in the material submitted by it, vigorously denies any wrongdoing, asserting that military operations under “Operation Defensive Shield” were necessary to break an infrastructure of terrorist activity. The submission of the Palestinian Authority maintains that the military operation has been gravely disproportionate and that the very infrastructure of the Palestinian Authority itself has been disabled.
8. Throughout the military operations in the West Bank the Israeli courts have remained open. They have received and rapidly responded to petitions from Israeli NGOs challenging the actions of the Government and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).
9. The following sections of this report deal with issues of fundamental human rights that have been the subject of international concern in the current situation.
11. Since 29 March 2002, when the IDF reoccupied Ramallah and other towns, including Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Jenin and Nablus, numerous Palestinian civilians have been killed. According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), the IDF incursions into Palestinian towns and villages resulted in 217 Palestinian deaths and 498 injured during the period from 29 March to 21 April 2002. These figures will still require confirmation since there has not been access to all areas.
12. On 12 April 2002, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions distributed a press release in which she stressed the “urgent need to investigate the allegations [of extrajudicial and summary executions by Israeli forces in connection with recent operations in the Jenin refugee camp] promptly”.
B. Destruction of property and infrastructure
14. According to UNRWA, during the first three months of 2002 Israeli military forces demolished more than 200 refugee shelters and damaged more than 2,000 others in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The total damage to refugee shelters during the first three months of 2002, not including the large number of shelters destroyed in April 2002, is equal to more than half of the entire damage resulting from Israeli military assaults since the beginning of the Palestinian uprising in September 2000.
15. It is a matter of record that numerous Ministries, offices and facilities of the Palestinian Authority, as well as public institutions such as schools, have been destroyed. Computer hard drives were removed and equipment smashed.
16. The United Nations Department of Public Information reported on 5 April 2002 the following statement by Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of UNRWA: “The application of violence is very generalized: there is not a question here of pinpointing and targeting a few suspects on a wanted list, but there is entry into homes, house after house, destruction of what is in the houses, often destruction of the houses. In the West Bank alone, we are now beginning to catch up, if you will, with Gaza: there are more than 2,500 destroyed or partially destroyed shelters. In Gaza, we are talking about even more.” He continued: “I have not myself been able to go to the camps [since] about a week ago or so, but I am told from the reports we are getting in from the camps (we have our staff inside there) that the situation is really unprecedented. There is this massive destruction of shelters and destruction of infrastructure, water lines; electricity is being cut off. Of course many installations that the Israeli army has used have also suffered very bad damage. It is quite appalling to see, and I have seen it myself, how some installations, for instance in the health and medical area, have been destroyed and medicines smashed, a dentist’s chair kicked over and ripped out of the floor, threatening graffiti written in Hebrew on the wall.”
18. Reports from the Palestinian Authority and non-governmental organizations refer to the IDF practice of conducting house-to-house searches in areas under its control, which frequently result in arrests. Another practice was illustrated by the following example: on Friday, 29 March 2002, all male residents of a district of Al-Bireh town aged between 15 and 45 were told to assemble in a nearby school. The majority were forced to remain in the school throughout the day and night. The next morning some of those held throughout the night were released while others were taken away in buses.
19. UNRWA local staff members have been among those detained by the IDF. UNRWA has requested from the Israeli authorities access to and information about its detained staff members. The Agency also complains that its buildings have been used repeatedly as detention centres. For example, on 9 April 2002 special Israeli forces and army units broke into the UNRWA Ramallah Men’s Training Centre, arresting 104 trainees and the Dean of the Centre. UNRWA has protested to the Israeli authorities, calling for the immediate release of the detainees and access for the UNRWA legal team to them. The Agency has reminded the Israeli authorities of their responsibility for the security of UNRWA staff and the inviolability of its facilities, and has stressed that military incursions into its facilities are unacceptable.
D. Torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
21. According to information received by B’Tselem on 5 April 2002, incidents of torture occurred during interrogations at the Ofer military camp, including the breaking of detainees’ toes.
23. On 18 April 2002, Adalah (the Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) sent a pre-petition to the Attorney-General’s office demanding that it compel the IDF to stop using Palestinian civilians as human shields in military operations.
24. Eyewitnesses and victims described to NGOs on the ground how friends, neighbours and relatives of “wanted” Palestinians were taken at gunpoint to knock on doors, open strange packages and search houses in which the IDF suspected armed Palestinians were present. Some families found their houses taken over and used as military positions by the IDF during an operation, while they themselves were ordered to remain inside. The Israeli authorities have accused Palestinian gunmen of attacking them from civilian homes and of booby trapping civilian structures.
F. Freedom of the press
26. During the recent military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory, the Israel Defense Forces declared at least six West Bank towns “closed military areas” and therefore off limits to the press. The six towns were Ramallah, Qalqiliya, Jenin, Tulkarem, Nablus and Bethlehem. The IDF claimed that this was for the protection of journalists.
G. Human rights defenders
H. Restrictions on freedom of movement and curfews
29. The curfew regime, with interruptions once or twice a week for two to four hours, makes it extremely difficult for the great majority of civilians in reoccupied areas to sustain their livelihoods. Curfews entail round-the-clock confinement of the population to their homes and the prohibition of any movement in the streets of occupied areas. The curfews are enforced by the deployment of armoured vehicles in city and town centres and at key positions throughout the affected areas.
I. Right to health and access to medical assistance
31. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has also been deeply concerned about the adverse impact of closures and prolonged curfews on Palestinian villages and towns, which severely restrict the access of civilians, especially women, to life-saving services such as emergency obstetric care. UNFPA has also noticed that the present crisis has adversely affected not only Palestinians’ general physical health and health care facilities, but also their psycho-social well-being.
32. In a press release dated 4 April 2002, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that the health system was “in danger of collapse. The crisis is reflected in a shortage of medicine/antibiotics used to treat injuries encountered, the inability of health personnel and patients to access health facilities, the lack of food, water, electricity, access to services and access to dead bodies”.
33. For example, on 4 April 2002 it was reported that there were 28 kidney patients in Jenin who could not reach the hospital for dialysis treatment. Attempts made by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel to coordinate their travel to the hospital were unsuccessful. On 7 April, after at least four days without dialysis treatment, 4 of the 28 were taken to hospital. Sources at the hospital in Jenin do not know what happened to the remaining 24 patients. The electricity supply to the hospital was reportedly cut off at certain times and an IDF armoured vehicle was reportedly stationed at the entrance to the hospital, preventing anyone leaving or entering. The Israeli authorities maintain that they provided assistance to kidney patients seeking to reach hospital.
34. The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has reported systematic interference in its functions by the Israeli authorities. According to the PRCS, this has included denial of access to ambulances, the delaying of ambulance services, the denial of access to medical services, medicines and vaccinations for the civilian population, the arrest of patients from ambulances, the targeting of emergency and humanitarian workers, shooting at PRCS emergency response teams, the deliberate abuse and torture of Red Crescent emergency workers, and misinformation aimed against the PRCS.
35. According to the Israeli authorities, there are countless examples of coordination between Israeli and Palestinian authorities for the passage of ambulances and other vehicles transporting the ill and delivering supplies to hospitals.
36. According to the IDF, incidents involving ambulances are due to the increasing use of ambulances and medical vehicles by terrorist organizations. Palestinian fighters are allegedly working on the premise that these vehicles do not undergo thorough examinations when they pass through IDF roadblocks an checkpoints.
37. On 8 April 2002, the Israeli High Court dismissed petitions filed by human rights organizations challenging the IDF’s prevention of access to medical treatment for the sick and wounded; restriction of access of medical personnel and transport to the areas; and obstruction of the right to bury the dead in a respectful manner. In the judgement, Justice Dorner stated:
J. Humanitarian assistance
39. On 12 April 2002, Mr. Paul Grossrieder, Director-General of the ICRC, described as absolutely unacceptable the fact that “useless humiliations take place and are taking place” against Red Cross and Red Crescent staff and delegates in the field.
40. Israeli military operations in towns and refugee camps have resulted in heavy demand for urgently needed medical and humanitarian assistance for Palestinian civilians. In order to alleviate the problem and to provide emergency relief and food aid, UNRWA Operations Support Office has, since the beginning of April 2002, been sending out humanitarian aid convoys on a day-to-day basis to refugee camps and towns to provide Palestinian civilians with food, water and medical supplies. United Nations agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator in the Occupied Territories (UNSCO) and UNRWA have been coordinating and combining efforts to carry out these humanitarian missions. Other United Nations agencies have been providing international staff members as volunteers to work with the UNRWA Operations Support Office to clear the movement of convoys with the IDF and to assist their passage through IDF checkpoints.
41. The movement of United Nations humanitarian aid convoys in and out of cities, towns, villages and refugee camps during the period since 28 March 2002 has been difficult and, as of 24 April 2002, remains slow owing to the heavy Israeli military presence in Areas A and B, ongoing curfews, full closures and long delays at checkpoints and road blocks.
42. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported on 18 April 2002 that all movements of humanitarian goods and personnel remained subject to prior authorization/clearance by the IDF. However, overall accessibility was significantly better on 18 April compared to previous days. On 18 April UNRWA convoys delivered food supplies and water to Jenin and Balata refugee camps. UNRWA also delivered food supplies to Fawar refugee camp and to Al-Bireh. Humanitarian NGOs delivered food to Tulkarem. The ICRC delivered medical supplies to Annabeh, Tulkarem district and hospitals in Hebron and Ramallah. The ICRC also distributed water in Jenin refugee camp and food in Hebron city and Nablus. All reports agree that while deliveries of essential supplies have now improved, the situation of civilians who have been displaced by the fighting, left homeless by the destruction of residential areas or who have exhausted their savings and therefore have no cash to buy food remains serious.
K. Impact on the economic situation in the occupied Palestinian territory
44. The production stoppage has entailed immediate income losses for employees and owners of businesses, as well as losses in tax revenues for the Palestinian Authority. In addition, suppliers and buyers in the directly affected urban areas have close economic links to rural areas; the isolation of the former has significant negative effects on the latter. This is also true of the relationship between businesses in Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
45. The premises of an as yet unknown number of official, public, private and non-governmental organizations have been damaged, in some cases severely. Numerous Palestinian Authority Ministries, municipalities, medical facilities, schools, religious buildings and relief and development organizations report raids on their installations by Israeli military personnel since 29 March 2002. It is alleged that this has often entailed the gratuitous destruction of offices, office equipment and the ransacking and/or theft of files, including computer drives, as in the case of the Ministry of Education in Ramallah. Other public institutions reported to be similarly affected include the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Civilian Affairs and the Land Registration Office. Ramallah/Al-Bireh, in addition to being the centre for Palestinian Authority agencies, is the hub for most West Bank NGOs. According to BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, it will take time, resources and effort to restore the physical, communications and logistics capacity of the Palestinian Authority, the municipalities and the NGOs to levels attained prior to the reoccupation. Many institutions remain occupied by Israeli military forces and independent observers are unable to assess damage and destruction. In institutions to which individuals have gained access, they have found widespread destruction of computers, files and office equipment, confiscation of computer hard drives and documents, including financial records and structural damage.
46. The growth of poverty is especially severe for the thousands of households dependent, in whole or in part, on wage income earned in Israel. 2
L. The situation in Jenin refugee camp
48. Following the withdrawal of the Israeli army, humanitarian relief organizations and the foreign media were able to enter the camp and make on-the-spot visual assessments. The United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, was among international personalities who visited the camp on 18 April. He described the scene as “horrific beyond belief” and stated: “It is totally destroyed; it is like an earthquake; we have expert people here who have been in war zones and earthquakes and they say they have never seen anything like it.” He added that it was “morally repugnant” that the Israelis had not allowed rescue teams in after the fighting was over.
49. On 17 April 2002, the ICRC asked the Israeli authorities to allow foreign rescue teams immediate access to the Jenin refugee camp so that they could help to clear the rubble.
50. On 19 April 2002, the Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 1405 (2002), in which it welcomed the initiative of the Secretary-General to develop accurate information regarding recent events in the Jenin refugee camp through a fact-finding team and requested him to keep the Security Council informed.
51. On 22 April 2002, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced that Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland, will head a fact-finding mission mandated by the Security Council to obtain accurate information regarding recent events in the Jenin refugee camp. In addition to Mr. Ahtisaari, the team will comprise the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata, and the former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Cornelio Sommaruga.
M. The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem
53. The humanitarian situation inside the compound appears to be critical. The IDF has reportedly cut water, electricity and telephone lines to at least some parts of the compound. There is also a lack of food. On 11 April the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor announced: “Since yesterday evening, the supplies of water and food have run out; the removal of the body of the young Palestinian killed has not been permitted; it is not possible to provide suitable care to the other gravely wounded Palestinian; the supply of electric power, available in adjacent buildings, has been cut off from the Franciscan convent alone.”
54. OCHA has expressed concern about the situation of 400 families living around Manger Square, as they have remained virtually without any humanitarian assistance since the inception of a non-stop curfew regime on 3 April.
N. The situation in Ramallah
56. The IDF has sought to prevent unauthorized persons, including journalists, from entering the compound. On 5 April, the IDF fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at reporters seeking to cover a meeting between the United States Middle East Envoy Anthony Zinni and President Arafat.
58. The military operation must be brought to an end. Equally, all attacks against Israeli civilians must end. All actors on the ground must bear in mind their responsibility for ensuring respect for international human rights standards. In particular, such responsibility is vested in those in positions of power who, by virtue of international norms, should be held accountable for its abuse.
59. A peaceful and stable future in the region can only be achieved on the basis of international human rights and humanitarian law. Full compliance with international human rights standards as laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two International Covenants is essential to guarantee respect for the equal dignity of all people in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.
60. Full application of the Fourth Geneva Convention is vital to guarantee respect for the fundamental human rights of civilian populations in time of war and occupation. Article 1 of the Convention places a duty on all the High Contracting Parties “to respect and to ensure respect” for its provisions “in all circumstances”. The principle of distinction requires that parties to the conflict shall “at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only against military objectives”. The principle of proportionality prohibits an attack on a military target which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, and damage to civilian objects which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated. All parties to the conflict must respect these principles.
61. It is essential for both parties to end the violence and immediately launch a process that will eventually lead to peace. The Secretary-General has offered United Nations assistance in this regard, including a proposal for a ceasefire to be monitored by international armed forces. This proposal should be implemented without delay. It is essential that the peace efforts and any eventual peace agreement should be based on respect for the human rights of all Israelis and Palestinians.
62. There needs to be accountability on all sides for what has happened, as well as steps taken to ensure that in future proper rules and safeguards are in place to prevent violations of the human rights of both peoples, Palestinians and Israelis. In this context, there is an urgent need for a comprehensive investigation into alleged breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law, an investigation that would be independent of the parties but conducted with their full cooperation. OHCHR would be prepared to make available for that purpose all the material submitted to it in compiling this report. International human rights bodies such as the treaty bodies might be in a position to make a contribution to the investigation.
63. Failure to investigate widespread allegations of serious human rights violations and to seek accountability risks undermining the integrity of the international human rights system.
64. OHCHR stands ready to facilitate human rights dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli NGOs and other civil society representatives in order to enhance mutual understanding.